Chapter 29~30

 

Chapter Twenty-nine

Don't You Hate Running into Your Ex?

As soon as she unlocked the new loft's security door from the street, Jody smelled blood, burned flesh, and shampoo. A case of the willies that felt like an electric serpent slithered up her spine. She went up the stairs, light on the balls of her feet, ready. She heard every tick in the apartment, the refrigerator motor, floorboards shifting, the huge cat Chet snoring in the bedroom, and, of course, someone breathing.

The lights were off. He was sitting in a canvas sling-back chair, barefoot, in a pair of Tommy's jeans and a T-shirt, drying his hair with a towel. Jody stopped by the kitchen.

"Fledgling," said the vampire. "I'm always pleasantly surprised when I am reminded of how lovely you are. Surprises are rare at my age."

"Must have surprised the fuck out of you to have that Honda toast you, then, huh?" She felt herself tightening down, the electric jangle channeling itself into an awareness, an edge. It wasn't fear anymore, it was readiness.

"An unpleasant one, yes. I assume your little servant is safe for now."

"Well, you know, she was winded for a few minutes from kicking your ass, but she is just a little girl."

The vampire laughed, and Jody couldn't help but smile. She went to the windows at the front of the loft and opened them. "Smells like burned meat in here."

"She'll have to go, you know," said the vampire, still smiling.

"No, she won't," Jody turned on her heel. Faced him.

"Of course she will. All of them but you. I'm quite tired of being alone, little one. You can come away with me, just as we planned."

Jody was stunned at his density. "I was lying to you, Elijah. I never intended to go away with you. I was just pretending to find out how to be a vampire."

"What were you going to do the next night, then - if your pet hadn't bronzed us, I mean?"

"I thought I'd send you away."

"No you didn't."

"I thought I'd let the Animals kill you, like they were going to anyway."

"No you didn't."

"I don't know." The edge was slipping. "I don't know." Maybe she was going to go with him. She had felt so alone, so lost.

"Ah, so here we are again. Let's pretend like all this unpleasantness hasn't happened, and it's the next night, and here we are, just the two of us. The only ones of our kind. What will you do, Jody?"

"But we aren't the only ones of our kind."

"We are the only ones you need worry about. You do know that you are the first new vampire in a hundred years?"

Jody tried not to show her surprise. "How lucky for me," she said.

"Oh, you're not the only one I've turned. I've turned many. You're the only one who could weather the change with her mind intact. The others had to be, well, decommissioned."

"You killed them?"

"Yes. But not you. Help me clean up and then we'll leave, together."

"Clean up?"

"There are certain rules, love. Rules that I set down myself, and the first of them is make no more vampires. Yet you've let loose a storm of fledglings, and they all have to be cleaned up, including your boy pet."

"Make no more? What about me? You made me."

"I didn't expect you to survive, love. I thought you would be an amusement, a break in monotony, an interlude, but you distinguished yourself."

"And now you want me to run off with you."

"We'll live like royalty. I have resources you couldn't imagine."

"You're wearing stolen jeans, sugar daddy."

"Well, yes, I will have to make my way to one of my caches."

"I have an idea," Jody said, and this was really the reason she had come here, by herself, knowing that he would be here. Or at least hoping. "How about I give you enough money to get you out of town and you do that, just like we promised Rivera and Cavuto? You leave me alone, you leave Tommy alone, you just leave."

Elijah stood now, tossed the towel on the chair, and moved to her so quickly that she could barely even see him move. "Art, music, literature," said Elijah. "Desire, passion, power - the best of man and the best of beast. Together. You would say no to that?"

He put his hand on her cheek and she let him.

"Love?" Jody said, looking into his eyes - they reflected like drops of mercury in her night vision.

"For fairy tales. We are the stuff from which nightmares are made. Make nightmares with me."

"Wow, nice offer. Can't imagine why you haven't had any takers for a hundred years." Jody grabbed his wrist. If he wouldn't leave, she could take him. She was a vampire, too.

The vampire had been smiling, but his smile changed aspect, going from pleased to predatory. "So be it, then."

His hand was at her neck in an instant, she didn't see him move or have a chance to react. Suddenly she couldn't move her arms or legs, and there was an intense pain behind her ear and under her jaw. She screamed, releasing a sound she couldn't imagine coming out of a human, more like something you'd hear from a tortured cat. He clamped his other hand over her mouth.

"I didn't teach you everything in our one night together, love."

She watched helplessly as he tossed his head back and his fangs unsheathed.

Troy Lee squared off against Drew at the end of the dog-food aisle, two short fighting swords in hand.

"Bring it, stoner," Troy Lee said. He spun the swords. Drew fell into a crouch by the dishwashing liquids.

"I'm fast now," Drew said.

"Uh-huh," Troy said. He whipped the swords through the air in a deadly fanning motion. He'd been training since he was a child; he wasn't afraid, especially of Drew.

"Hey," came a woman's voice from right beside him. Troy Lee looked over, lightning quick, just in time to register what looked like a full moon coming at his face.

There was a loud clang and Troy was nearly flipped over backwards when the iron skillet hit him in the forehead. Blue let it drop to her side and grinned at Drew. "I've always wanted to do that."

"Housewares used to be my aisle," Drew said.

"Take him," said Blue. "Let him drink some of your blood before he dies." She headed toward a commotion in the can aisle. "Save some, boys. Mama's got a broken nose that needs to heal."

Jody felt her own fangs extend and her kneecaps quiver as Elijah fed on her, but otherwise she couldn't move. How could she have been so stupid? He was eight hundred years old - of course he hadn't taught her everything. Of course he was stronger than she was - she was stronger than Tommy, and she had only been a vampire a couple of months longer than he had.

If she could stay conscious, maybe when he stopped feeding she could make her move. Could he reduce her to dust like a human, or would he have to do something else? Stupid. Stupid. Stupid. Why didn't she know all of this? Why wasn't she acting on instinct? Where was the predator mind when you needed it?

Her vision started to tunnel down - she was losing consciousness. She could hear rapid footsteps outside, though. First below, then across the street, then below again. Elijah heard them, too, and he loosened his grip for an instant, but before she could twist away, his fingers dug into her neck and jaw again. Then a black blur flew through the window and she heard something thud on the floor over by the kitchen. There was another loud thud and Elijah released her and she fell to the floor. She tried to push herself up, but something was thrown over her and she heard a buzzing sound. She heard screaming and smelled burning flesh, glass breaking, then someone was lifting her, carrying her. She couldn't move or even fight anymore. She let go, let herself float away, but the last thing she heard was a girl's voice saying, "Did you feed Chet?"

The Emperor sat on the dock of the St. Francis Yacht Club, watching the fog wash over the breakwater. He'd gone against the advice of the homicide detectives and had left the grocery store. It was his city, and it was his place to take the battle to its attackers. He had cowered in fear long enough. His wickedly pointed sword lay on the dock at his side. The men, Bummer and Lazarus, were sleeping in a fuzzy pile at his back.

"Ah, gentle warriors, how do we engage in battle when our enemy moves with such elegant stealth? Perhaps we should return to the Safeway and help defend."

Bummer's left ear twitched, and he let out a muffled ruff in his sleep.

A thick bank of fog was moving down from the opening in the breakwater and it caught the Emperor's attention because it appeared to be moving across the wind from the west. Yes, it was indeed - the cold breeze was coming straight over the breakwater from the north. The fog bank bubbled thick as it moved, tendrils reached out and then were reabsorbed like the false feet of some crawling creature.

The Emperor climbed to his feet and roused the men, snatched Bummer up before the sleepy terrier could get his bearings, and headed toward the clubhouse with Lazarus at his heels. He crouched in a shadow by the entrance to the restrooms, holding the hounds as he watched.

The fog bank enveloped the end of the dock, paused, then dissipated as if a fan had been turned on it, and three tall figures stood on the dock, a man and two women. They wore long coats, cashmere, the Emperor thought, but he couldn't for the life of him remember why he might know that. They moved down the dock toward him as if they were floating. The Emperor could see their outlines in the moonlight - jawlines and cheekbones that looked as if they'd been chiseled, square shoulders, and narrow hips. They might have been brother and sisters, except one of the women was of African descent, the other looked like she might be Italian or Greek. The man was a head taller than the women and looked Nordic, perhaps German, with close-cropped white hair. All were as pale as bleached bone.

As they passed him the Emperor pulled the hounds closer and Bummer let out a threatening ruff.

They stopped. The man turned. "How long have you been here?" he asked.

"Forever, I think," said the Emperor.

The man smiled and nodded, then turned and was on his way. "I know how you feel," he said without looking back.

Gustavo and Jeff found Barry hiding in the shelves among the toilet-paper packages. When they got close, Barry burst out of the TP and made a run for the end of the aisle, pulling napkins, aluminum foil, garbage bags, and plastic silverware off the shelves as he went to slow his pursuers. Gustavo went down first, slipping on a package of plastic forks. Jeff high-stepped through the obstacles and was right on Barry's ass until he was almost to the end of the aisle and Lash stepped out holding one of Barry's spearguns.

"Down!" Lash barked, and Barry hit the tile on his chest and slid.

There was a pneumatic hiss and the heavy stainless spear thudded into Jeff's sternum and blew him back off his feet.

"Ow, goddammit," said the power forward, clutching at the spear and trying to pull it out of his chest.

Gustavo climbed to his feet, ran to Jeff, and started yanking on the spear.

Lash handed Barry a four-foot-long stick with a blunt metal tip on it and fitted another spear into the gun.

"That the last one?" Barry asked.

Lash nodded. "Where's Clint?"

Just then the tall blond woman appeared at the far end of the aisle, dragging an unconscious Clint by his collar. A wide bloodstain ran from her chin to her crotch and they could see her fangs even from this distance. "Bad boys. Leaving your born-again lying on the floor where people can trip over him."

She dropped Clint on his face, and headed up the aisle toward them, in long, slow strides.

Lash bolted, Barry right behind them, through the canvas doors into the back room, and into the walk-in dairy cooler. It was like a long hallway with plastic milk boxes stacked on one side and the glass dairy cases on the other. They pushed stacks of heavy one-gallon milk boxes in front of the door, then leaned with their backs against the back of the cooler, watching the store through the clear cooler doors in the dairy case, over the cartons of yogurt and cottage cheese.

"What's that she's carrying?" Barry asked.

"A frying pan," Lash said.

"Oh," Barry said "Sorry I let her in. She was almost naked."

"How could you have known?"

"Well, when she claimed she had a nooky-gram for my birthday, I should have figured something was up."

"Your birthday's like in March, isn't it?"

"Yeah."

Lash slapped Barry hard once on his bare scalp, then re-aimed the speargun over the yogurts.

"I deserved that," Barry said.

"Think that spear hit Jeff's heart?"

"Had to. It's a foot through his sternum."

"He doesn't seem dead."

"Guess that means head shot." Barry shook his head. "You want me to try?"

"Nah, if I miss, you have the bang stick." Lash nodded at the long stick Barry was holding at port arms. Essentially it was a twelve-gauge shotgun shell on the end of a stick, used for killing sharks. You poked them with it and the shotgun shell fired into them at point-blank range.

"I'll bet she doesn't even know what it is."

"Get it right," Lash said. "Blow her fucking brains out."

They looked at each other as they heard the refrigeration compressors and fans wind down. Then the lights went out.

"We're fucked," Lash said.

"Yep," Barry agreed.

Chapter Thirty

Being the Chronicles of Abby Normal:

Dark and Mysterious Goddess of Forbidden Love

Don't judge me. I have looked death in the face and made him my bitch! I did what I did out of love, and I don't want to sound conceited, but OMG, we are heroes! And when I say we, I mean us.

Had I told you before, you would have called me "losah!" pronounced me perky and cute beyond redemption, but now that I am secure in my own nefarious love lair and whatnot, I can at last confess, that in my naive youth, my favorite literary character was not the tentacled horror Cthulu from Lovecraft as I previously stated in AP English 235, but, in fact, Pippi Longstocking. Before you condemn me for my Pippism, check it out:

Pippi drank a lot of coffee. (Because, like me, she was wise.)

Pippi had unnaturally red hair (as I, myself have had, upon occasion).

Pippi often wore long, stripy socks (as yours truly has been known to do).

Pippi had superhuman strength. (It could happen.)

Pippi kicked ass. (Not unlike your humble narrator.)

Pippi was a kid who lived without parents in her own house. (Go, girl!)

With a monkey. (Haven't you always wanted a monkey?)

What Longstockings did not have, was the coolest cyber-ninja-sex-magic boyfriend to ever save the world and whatnot. (Props to Pip, but girlfriend needed some yang to rock her yin.)

Steve. My darling, my love,

My heart is aflame

But OMFG, Steve,

I grieve,

That you're name

Is so fucking lame.

I call him Foo Dog, because he guards the gate of my temple, if you know what I mean. I'm wearing the jacket he made me right now. I had it on when they came for me, but that's not the thing. The thing is, I didn't save myself, I saved love.

So, that night, after I told the Countess how my sweet Foo Dog saved me from the vampyre, the Countess said she was going to go back to the loft to get some money and feed Chet and get the last of William's blood for Lord Flood, for their love is truly eternal. And Jared and I were like, "We'll go, too," but the Countess sent us back to liberate the vampyre Flood from Jared's basement and his hideous family. So we were all, "Well, okay."

But when we got to Jared's house, Flood was totally gone. And then Steve - I mean Foo Dog - called me and he was all, "I'm getting off work early, I don't want to leave you out there unprotected."

So I told him where we were. Then Lord Flood comes walking out of the dark and he's all, "What? What? What?"

And I'm all, "The Countess went back to the loft."

And he's all, "She is in danger. We must away."

And I was like, "Chill thee thus, for my sweet love-ninja is on the way in his fly ride."

So Flood was like, " 'Kay."

I see now that my attraction to the vampyre Flood was nothing more than childish infatuation, never to be requited, because he had eyes only for the Countess.

So it was a little awkward when Steve showed up and I had to chill the Lord Flood and make him sit in the backseat to show that my real affections were with Foo Dog, who was formerly known as Steve.

And when we got to the loft, the windows were open, but there were no lights on. And Flood had us drive a block past, then we got out and he walked back. Then he runs up and he's like, "Elijah's up there. He's got her."

And I'm all, "Then go get her."

And Steve is like, "No, I'll go get her." And he pulls this long coat out of the trunk.

It's all covered with warts or something, and I'm like, "Nice coat, but you know, vampyre..."

And Steve is like, "They're UV LEDs. Like the lights we burned the vampires with before."

And I'm like, "Sweet!"

So Steve starts to put the coat on and Flood stops him and goes, "He'll hear you coming up the stairs. I'll go."

And Steve is all, "You can't. It will burn you, too."

And Flood is all, "No it won't."

So they are like five minutes behind the car putting together this ��ber-cool ensem of like an old gas mask, and a hoodie, and full-on gloves and everything, until Flood is totally covered, wearing the long coat with the glass warts all over it, looking like one of the cenobites from Hellraiser.

And Steve is like, "Don't hit the switch until you know she's covered." And he hands Flood like a black rubber tarp and a baseball bat, which totally sucked the cool right out of the ensem, but I guess was necessary.

Then, just when I'm about to ask how he's going to get in without being heard, we hear the Countess scream, and Flood runs across the street and about halfway up the side of the building, then turns and runs down it, then across the street, up the side of his building, and goes through the window feet fucking first.

And I'm like, "Whoa."

And Steve and Jared are like, "Whoa."

And a second later we hear a thumping, and purple light comes on in the loft windows and the old vampyre comes crashing through the windows on fucking fire, falling like a comet! And he lands on his feet in the middle of the street, hisses once and looks at us, and that's when Steve holds up one of his UV floodlights, and the vampyre fucking scrams down the alley across the street so fast that he was just a blur.

Next thing, Flood is coming out of the building carrying the Countess, who is wrapped in the black rubber tarp and is totally roofied like a limp rag. And Steve's all, "Get her in the car."

And I'm like, "Did you feed Chet?"

And Jared is like, "Hello, Abby, the other vampyres."

So I'm like, "Shut up. I know." So we all piled into Steve's car and we took Flood and the Countess to a hotel off up on Van Ness, which Steve paid for with his Visa, which was generous and mature of him.

It was one of those motels where you have your own entrance to the parking lot so they don't see you in the hallway, so Flood carried the Countess up to the room, and we carried some stuff that Steve had packed up in the trunk of his car.

It was so sad. Flood just stroked the Countess's cheek and tried to get her to wake up, but she wouldn't. And he was all, "Abby, she needs to feed. I wouldn't ask, but he's done something to her, she's hurt."

And I would have totally done it, but Steve pulled me back, and he picks up this playmate cooler that he had us bring up, and he pulls out these pouches of blood.

And he hands them to Flood and says, "I took them from the university hospital. They could kick me out of school for this."

And Flood is all, "Thanks." And he bites a hole in one of the pouches and squeezes it on the Countess's lips and that's when I started to cry.

There were like four pouches, and when he was going for the last one, Steve was like, "You need to drink that one."

And Flood was like, "No way, it's for her."

And Steve was like, "You know you do."

So Flood like nodded and drank the last one himself, and then he just sat there by her, stroking her hair.

Then Steve was like, "Tommy, you know I can reverse your vampirism. I'm pretty sure the process works."

And Flood just looked at him and nodded. It was so sad. And then the Countess started to moan, and she opened her eyes and she saw the vampyre Flood and she was all, "Hey, baby." Just like that. And I started crying again like a big wuss and Steve took Jared and me out to the car to give them some space.

And Steve was like, "I made this for you from my jacket." And he put this leather motorcycle jacket on me that was covered with those glass LED thingies. It was kinda heavy, because there were batteries built into the padding, but cool. And he was all, "This will keep you safe. The switch is in the snap on the left cuff. Just squeeze it and the lights will come on. They won't hurt you, but you should wear sunglasses to protect your retinas." Then he put a pair of totally cyber wraparound sunglasses on me and kissed me. And I kissed him back, hard, with major tongue, and finally he pulled away, as gentle as a butterfly. So then I slapped him, so he wouldn't think I was a slut. But so he wouldn't think I was being frigid, I sort of jumped on him and wrapped my legs around him and sort of accidentally rode him to the ground and was accidentally kind of dry-humping him on the pavement when the lights on my jacket came on and people looked out their hotel windows and whatnot, so Jared ended our special romantic moment by hitting my light switch and dragging me off.

And I was all, "You are THE MAN, Foo!"

And he was all, "Huh?" Because I hadn't told him yet that his new name was Foo Dog.

But then he said he actually had to get home and check in or his parents would freak out. And said to watch the masters until I got back, if I got a chance try to talk them into being converted. So we made out on the hood of the Honda for a while and he drove off into night's cold loneliness like the superhero that he is. (The effect was ruined, kind of, in that Jared caught a ride with him.)

So I went back upstairs and sat at the foot of the masters' bed, keeping guard and listening to them.

They were talking softly, but I could hear them.

The vampyre Flood was all, "Maybe we should give it a try."

And the Countess was all, "What, the cure? Tommy, it can't work. You've seen what I can do, you know what you can do. This isn't biology, this is magic."

"Maybe it's not. Maybe it's science we don't know yet."

"It doesn't matter. We don't even know if it works."

"We should try."

"Why would we try, Tommy? You've only been immortal for a couple of weeks. Do you want to give up the power, the - I don't know - the command over your world?"

"Well - yes."

"You do?"

"Yeah. I don't like it, Jody. I don't like being afraid all the time. I don't like being alone. I don't like being a killer."

"That woman was torturing you, Tommy. That's never going to happen again."

"That's wasn't the problem. I'd get over her. The problem was that I liked it. I liked it."

Then the Countess was quiet for a while, and I thought it might be dawn or something, but I peeked over the edge of the bed and she was just staring into his eyes. She looked over at me.

"Hey, girlie girl," the Countess said, and she smiled at me and it felt like a gift or something. It was like, real. Then she took her watch off and threw it to me at the end of the bed. "That has an automatic almanac in it - how about you set the alarm to go off about twenty minutes before sunset, so you don't get caught out again, okay?" And I was going to tell her about the jacket that Foo made for me, but I kind of couldn't talk, so I just nodded and put the watch on and slid back down to the floor.

Then I heard the Countess go, "You aren't alone. I'm here. We can go where no one knows us, no one is chasing us, and I'll always be here for you."

And he goes, "I know. I mean alone from everyone else. Separate. I want to be human, not some foul dead thing."

"I thought you wanted to be special."

"I do, but I want to be human special - because of something I did."

Then it was quiet for a while, and finally the Countess goes, "I love it, Tommy. I'm not afraid all the time like you; just the opposite. I didn't realize how afraid I used to be until I became like this. I like walking the street knowing that I'm the Alpha animal, hearing and seeing and smelling everything, being part of everything. I like it. I wanted to share that with you."

"It's okay. You couldn't have known."

"I don't want to be alone either. That's why I turned you. I love you."

Then the alarm went off on Lord Flood's watch, and he shut it off.

Then he's all, "We can't go back to the way it was, before, I mean? Where I look after you?"

"It's not the same world, Tommy. You know that now. We were in the same room in different worlds."

"Okay then. I love you, Jody."

"I love you, too," goes the Countess.

Then they didn't say anything for a long time, and when my new watch showed that the sun was up, I looked, and they were lying there, holding each other, and I could see the red stains on the pillow from their tears.

And I was like, "Oh, hell no!"

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